From the Archives: I don't need it but I'll take it – Revisiting oil and gas tax breaks

by | September 28th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (1)

Note: This afternoon, the Task Force for the Study of State Tax Credits and Economic Incentives will be examining gross production tax exemptions. This blog post on the subject initially ran in March 2011.

A recent news report examining proposals to limit the federal tax deduction for charitable giving concluded with a comment that gets to the crux of the debate over tax breaks:

As one donor explained, he doesn’t give to charity to get a deduction — but he’ll take it if it’s there.

It seems as though Oklahoma oil and gas producers think the same way.

State tax breaks ranked last among 10 variables cited by Oklahoma oil industry executives as affecting their decision to drill, according to the findings of  a non-scientific 2008 survey by Oklahoma City University economics professor Steven Agee. However, most producers will gladly take them when they’re there: Agee found that 83 percent of respondents had claimed a gross production tax rebate.

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In The Know: AG says parole streamlining is unconstitutional

by | September 28th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the Attorney General issued an opinion that new parole guidelines aiming to streamline the process for non-violent offenders were unconstitutional. OK Policy previously examined the parole changes and other corrections reforms intended to reduce prison populations and save the state money. OK Policy Director David Blatt gave an overview of the state budget situation to the Claremore Chamber of Commerce. See the slides from Blatt’s presentation here.

Gov. Fallin and legislative leaders announced that they will find a way to fully fund teacher health benefits in the coming legislative session. Using new powers given to her in the last session, Gov. Fallin replaced three members of the Education Board with her own appointees. Fallin also announced that Oklahoma homeowners will be eligible for a cash rebate of up to $2,000 for the installation of a qualified tornado shelter under a $1 million federal grant.

The DHS Commission has formed a new committee to review cases of children who died while under state supervision.  A newly appointed DHS Commission member writes that they need to revise how the Commission governs the agency. Part of the law establishing a closing fund to pay businesses that move to Oklahoma has been thrown out by the state Supreme Court. The OK Policy Blog features a guest post on why education reform can only succeed if health care professionals and social workers as well as educators are involved.

Oklahoma will begin enforcing its pet breeder law next week, and unlicensed breeders may be subject to fines of $500 per day for each dog or cat found in their operation. The latest Census numbers show that federal spending in Oklahoma last year equated to $10,256 per person. Today’s Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank nationally in number of acres of land in the state that’s used in farming. In today’s Policy Note, results from a new Florida law requiring welfare applicants to take drug tests reveal that those are welfare are less likely to take drugs than the general population.

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Guest Blog (John Thompson): Why Oklahoma cannot afford to put children in silos

by | September 27th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (2)

John Thompson is an education writer currently working on a book about his experience teaching for 18 years in the inner city of OKC. He has a doctorate from Rutgers University and is the author of  Closing the Frontier:  Radical Responses in Oklahoma Politics.

The last generation has seen the rise of education reform. This movement brought a profound sense of urgency to improving our schools, arguing that it is essential for the United States’ survival in the global marketplace. Consequently, reformers argue that data-driven accountablity, as well as an unflinching focus on classroom instruction, are more than a tough-love program for schools. They are the key to prosperity in the 21st century.

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In The Know: Governor could oust Education Board members

by | September 27th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Gov. Mary Fallin is expected to oust four members to the state Education Board today after a new law takes effect allowing her to replace board members “at will.” Two fights erupting within a week at the Tecumseh juvenile correctional center have prompted a special meeting to discuss allowing use of armed security personnel, Tasers, pepper spray and increased mechanical restraints on juveniles. More than $150 million has been spent so far and millions more are needed to clean up the Tar Creek Superfund site, which has been blamed for dumping lead and other dangerous pollutants in the Grand Lake watershed.

With state leaders pushing to eliminate the state’s income tax, the OK Policy Blog presents three alternative reforms that modernize the tax system and do a better job of making Oklahoma prosperous and competitive with other states. Following a study to examine state obligations, Rep. Joe Dorman expressed concern that legislators do not understand the full extent of state debts and obligations [Journal Record subscriber only link] to make sure they are paid. A federal judge found the Cherokee Nation in contempt of court for missing a deadline to notify freedmen descendants that they could vote in a special election for the Principal Chief.

House Speaker Kris Steele has named Rep. Charles Ortega as co-chairman of the Joint Immigration Reform Committee. Ortega replaces Rep. George Faught who stepped down to run for U.S. Rep. Dan Boren’s Congressional seat. Despite Texas’s decision to end the practice, Oklahoma will continue offering last meals to death row inmates. OETA’s Oklahoma Forum featured a half-hour discussion of tax incentives with Rep. David Dank and two journalists who have covered the issue.

Today’s Number of the Day is the percentage of ACT-tested high school graduates in Oklahoma who were prepared for college-level course work in math in 2010. In today’s Policy Note, KWGS interviews Dr. John E. McDonough, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, to separate myths from the facts about the new health care law.

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Three reforms to modernize Oklahoma's income tax

by | September 26th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (3)

Photo by flickr user brunkfordbraun used under a Creative Commons License.

At the first meeting of the legislature’s tax reform task force, both chairmen expressed support for making top-down cuts to Oklahoma’s income tax or eliminating it entirely. In a previous post, we explained why that’s a bad idea. In this post, we present three alternative reforms that would modernize the income tax and genuinely improve Oklahoma’s competitiveness and economy.

1. Update the Personal Exemption

Oklahoma’s personal exemption, which allows households to deduct a set amount from taxable income for each member, has not been changed since the early 1980s. The impact of inflation since that time means today the exemption is worth a just fraction of what it once was.

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In The Know: Insurance companies take hundreds of millions in tax credits

by | September 26th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that insurance companies have taken $430 million in transferable tax credits since 2004 to offset insurance premium taxes. Oklahoma is joining the Complete College America national initiative to increase the number of college degrees earned per year by two-thirds. Commerce Secretary Dave Lopez and Education Secretary Phyllis Hudecki discussed why a college degree is crucial to succeed in today’s economy.

As many as 350 school districts may join a new organization to raise funds for legal action against the state Board of Education over funding of teacher health benefits. The Healthy Start Initiative is seeking to reduce Oklahoma’s infant death rate, which is one of the highest in the nation. The Oklahoma Innocence Project at the OCU School of Law has begun work and is already receiving numerous letter from inmates who say they were wrongfully convicted.

DHS is requesting an increase of $193 million in appropriations and wants to add 485 employees, including child welfare and family support specialists and child support workers. Budget cuts have forced the agency to reduce its work force by about 1,000. DHS Commissioner Steven Dow criticized the agency for spending $6.3 million on outside attorney to defend against a class-action lawsuit without having a public vote. Texas water providers are renewing their legal action against Oklahoma to try and force the state to let them buy water.

A new report says the Tulsa and Oklahoma City metros are on track to rank among the nation’s smoggiest cities in 2011. A lawmaker is proposing to reduce the number of state legislators by 10 percent. Today’s Number of the Day is the number of SNAP (food stamp) recipients in Oklahoma in July 2011, the highest average monthly participation in the history of the state. In today’s Policy Note, Stateline reports on how 2011 has already broken the record for federal disaster declarations with 3 months left to go.

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The Weekly Wonk – September 23, 2011

by | September 23rd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

This week the Census Bureau released new state-level data on income, poverty and health insurance coverage in 2010.  The Tulsa World interviewed our Director David Blatt on the rising poverty rate in Oklahoma.  Yesterday’s OK Policy blog post – Poverty rises in Oklahoma; children especially bearing the brunt -  concludes that despite experiencing a comparatively less severe recession than most other states, the situation for those at the bottom in Oklahoma is more fragile than ever.

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In the Know: Personal income in Oklahoma ranks near the top for 2nd quarter

by | September 23rd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs.  Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Oklahoma ranked fourth-highest in the nation in personal income growth from April to June of this year, marking the second consecutive quarter the state has ranked in the top five.  Even as economic indicators bring news of continued improvement overall, the OK Policy Blog reports on new Census data that poverty is on the rise in Oklahoma and many of the state’s low-income residents are being left behind by the economic recovery.  Governor Fallin announced a plan to increase the number of college graduates in Oklahoma by 20,000 over twelve years.

Labor Commissioner Mark Costello faces ongoing criticism for calling government employees “feral hogs” and other remarks regarding public workers.  The Oklahoma Supreme Court is seeking comment on a proposed rule to overhaul public court records to remove personal identification numbers.  The assistant state attorney general rebuked the Human Services Commission for raising co-pays on low-income parents receiving child-care subsidies from the state without first holding public hearings and notifying stakeholders.

Oklahoma State Bond Advisor Jim Joseph told the House Appropriations and Budget Committee that Oklahoma’s bond indebtedness is below that of most states.  In Today’s Policy Note, the AARP reports that material conditions have deteriorated significantly for older households during the last decade.  Today’s Number of the Day is the number of children in Oklahoma who are eligible for Medicaid (SoonerCare), but are not enrolled.

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Poverty rises in Oklahoma; children especially bearing the brunt

by | September 22nd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Poverty | Comments (4)

Update: Click here for our 2010 Poverty Profile based on the Census Bureau data

Despite Oklahoma’s comparatively modest unemployment rate and steady wage growth over the last two years, many of the state’s low income residents continue to be left behind by the economic recovery.  According to data released today by the Census Bureau, the state’s individual poverty rate rose from 16.2 percent in 2009 to 16.9 percent in 2010.  There were 616,610 people living in poverty in 2010 – about one in six Oklahomans.  A family of four is below the poverty level if they earn less than $22,113 a year.  The chart below shows state and national poverty rates over the last four years:

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In The Know: Expensive health care pushing Oklahomans into poverty

by | September 22nd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that new U.S. Census data shows a parallel between poverty in Oklahoma and lack of health insurance. The OK Policy Blog features a ten-minute documentary on the experiences of three Medicare families struggling to keep up with health care costs. A Tulsa judge denied a request from the Department of Justice to extend their oversight on Oklahoma’s juvenile inmate for three months, despite concerns that safety problems continue after juveniles were transferred out of the Rader Center.

Forbes Magazine profiles Tulsa billionaire George Kaiser’s philanthropic efforts that are putting millions towards corrections reforms and early childhood education in Oklahoma. Lawmakers were briefed on the comprehensive state water plan scheduled for final approval next month.

NewsOK has come out in favor of government subsidies for Amtrak. The Shawnee News-Start argues that we shouldn’t eliminate the income tax. The OK Policy Blog previously explained why Oklahoma needs an income tax. Jerrod Shouse asks whether allowing wine and strong beer sales in grocery stores means they will have to follow the same restrictions as liquor stores to keep minors from obtaining alcohol.

The Number of the Day is the number of alcohol-related traffic crashes in Oklahoma in 2010. In today’s Policy Note, The Policy Shop explains why spending cuts will hurt economic recovery more than tax increases.

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